Twitter imposter lawsuits begin. First up to bat: Tony La Russa

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Twitter imposter lawsuits begin. First up to bat: Tony La Russa

Thu Jun 04, 2009 @ 12:19PM PST

By Eriq Gardner

Well, we warned public figures that they better get on Twitter and register their names before the impostors do it for them.

Larussa Now comes the flood of lawsuits from those who didn't heed our advice.

First up is St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa, who has filed a complaint in California Superior Court against Twitter alleging that someone registered an account in his name and began posting obnoxious comments about the team's performance, including some off-color statements about two Cardinals pitchers, Darryl Kile and Josh Hancock, who died in recent years. La Russa says the actions caused him "significant emotional distress," damaged his reputation and the goodwill of his mark. The causes of action include trademark infringement, trademark dilution, cybersquatting, misappropriation of name and likeness, invasion of privacy, and intentional misrepresentation.

The Twitter page has been taken down already, but the suit remains active.

A possible stumbling block for La Russa in this case is that the bio of the faux Tony La Russa indicated that it was parody: "Bio Parodies are fun for everyone."

This possibly raises some "fair use" defenses to the trademark claims. 

By filing in California, La Russa is obviously looking to take advantage of the state's generous publicity right laws, and his claim of misappropriation of likeness could hold the most weight. However, the main target of the lawsuit is Twitter, and it'll be interesting to see how the company defends its efforts to police impostors on its network.

Interestingly, La Russa has a law degree from Florida State University and was once quoted as saying, "I'd rather ride the buses in the minor leagues than practice law for a living."

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The Hollywood Reporter, Esq. blog focuses on how the entertainment and media industries are impacted and influenced by the law. It is edited by Matthew Belloni with contributions from veteran legal reporter Eriq Gardner and others. Before joining The Hollywood Reporter, Belloni was a lawyer at an entertainment litigation firm in Los Angeles. He writes a column for THR devoted to entertainment law. Gardner is a New York-based writer and legal journalist. Send tips or comments to Matthew.Belloni@thr.com

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